Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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ENGLISH 08-Jan-2018 00:15:44
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
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UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock is scheduled to visit Syria from 9 to 12 January to meet with representatives of the Government of Syria and to see for himself the impact of Syria’s conflict on civilians. He will assess the humanitarian response and discuss how to improve access and delivery with key interlocutors. This is Mr. Lowcock’s first mission to Syria as Emergency Relief Coordinator.

With the seventh winter of the conflict underway, more than 13 million people need basic aid and protection. While some parts of Syria are witnessing a welcome reprieve from hostilities, many others face intensified military operations and conflict.

The UN is deeply concerned for the safety and protection of tens of thousands of people in southern Idleb and rural Hama in northeastern Syria, where ongoing hostilities have reportedly caused deaths and injuries of civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians, already in dire circumstances, have been recorded as displaced since 1 December due to the fighting. With the onset of winter, safe shelter is among the biggest concerns, as many families are fleeing into areas that are already at full capacity or into communities with depleted resources.

We are also alarmed by the increasing hostilities in East Ghouta that continue to put civilians in the line of fire, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries and damaging civilian infrastructure. We received alarming reports that the only emergency medical centre in Modira in besieged East Ghouta was damaged by an airstrike, rendering it inoperable.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that, since 4 January, military operations in Iraq targeting suspected Da’esh militants in Kirkuk’s Hawija district have displaced almost 700 people. Those displaced by the fighting are being transported to nearby Daquq displacement camp, where humanitarians are providing assistance.

Humanitarian activities in the district have meanwhile been paused for security reasons, in communication with local authorities, and will resume once military operations in the area conclude in the coming days.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also report that prior to cyclone Ava making landfall in Madagascar, they had deployed a team to the eastern city of Toamasina together with a team from the National Office for Disaster Risk Management Agency to support the initial assessment and the coordination of the response.

According to Malagasy authorities, cyclone Ava affected more than 63,000 people directly and six districts remain at high risk of flooding.

In a statement issued over the weekend on Western Sahara, the Secretary-General said he was deeply concerned about recent increased tensions in the vicinity of Guerguerat, in the Buffer Strip between the Moroccan berm and the Mauritanian border.

He underlined that the withdrawal of Frente Polisario elements from Guerguerat in April 2017, together with the earlier withdrawal of Moroccan elements from the area, was critical to creating an environment conducive to the resumption of dialogue under the auspices of his Personal Envoy Horst Kohler.

The Secretary-General called on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid escalating tensions. Regular civilian and commercial traffic should not be obstructed and no action should be taken, which may constitute a change to the status quo of the Buffer Strip.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General issued a statement on the passing of Peter Sutherland, who was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration for more than a decade starting in 2006.

The Secretary-General praised Mr. Sutherland’s “fearless and forceful” advocacy for some of the world's most vulnerable people, and said that as we work towards the adoption of a new Global Compact on Migration, we will continue to draw on his legacy of solidarity.

In response to a question on the Foreign Minister of South Sudan being unable to travel to Abyei, the Spokesman said that, as the Abyei Area remains contested between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN peacekeeping mission in the area, UNISFA, requires consent from both parties in order to transport high-level government officials from Sudan or South Sudan.

As prior agreement was not received from both governments, UNISFA was unable to transport the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Sudan to the Area.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan today released its preliminary findings on the suicide attack in Kabul on 4 January that killed 13 people and injured an additional 19.

The Mission said 12 of the 13 slain were police officials who were helping to restore order and safety for civilians during a violent disturbance between security officials and shopkeepers in the east of the capital. It was during that incident that a bomber detonated his body-borne improvised explosive device. The officers killed in the attack were not engaged in the armed conflict, UNAMA said.

The Mission condemned the attack and extended its condolences to the families of those affected.
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